The peace flags will fly during Saturday’s Veterans Day parade in Auburn after all.
Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ordered city officials to allow a veterans peace group to march in the parade after hearing about a hour of oral arguments in Seattle late Friday morning.
The Greater Seattle chapter of Veterans for Peace sued in federal court in Seattle on Monday after the city rejected last month its application to participate in the march in downtown Auburn.
The group, which has marched in the parade for six years, accused the city of violating its free-speech rights. The city had said in court papers that it holds the annual parade “to positively focus on honoring the military and its veterans,” and it turned down the group’s request because it “does not, in the City’s opinion, support this mission.”
Doug Honig, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented the group, said he was pleased with the decision.
“It recognizes the free speech rights of a group of veterans who have served in conflicts from World War II to Iraq,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Many other diverse groups will be participating in Auburn’s parade tomorrow, including marching bands, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float. The city gave no good reason why Veterans For Peace should not also be allowed to march in a Veterans Day parade.”
Mayor Pete Lewis said after the hearing that the city would comply with the judge’s order.
“The parade will take place on Saturday, and the great thing about the United State is that we are a nation governed by laws.”
Lewis said there’s been no discussion at this point about whether to appeal the decision.
“We’re concentrating on the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi and that really does take up some of our time,” he said.
Members from chapters in Tacoma, Bellingham, Olympia and Kitsap County have joined the Greater Seattle chapter during past parades. About 45 people marched last year. In prior years, group members have held the American flag, peace flags — where a peace sign replaces the field of 50 stars on the American flag — and signs calling for the nation’s exit from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The group said it honors service members and veterans through its work to “abolish war as an instrument of national policy so that no soldier will be ordered to place limb, life, or soul in jeopardy for an unjust or unworthy cause.”
Follow Christian Hill on Twitter @TNTchill